2017 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury Review

There's nothing subtle about this thing, on purpose.


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Robust power from the V8 mill, colossal towing power, excellent interior build quality, serious street cred, super-cool retractable running boards.
Negatives: Big and awkward in parking lots, somewhat compromised ride quality, huge pillars block sightlines, way too much piano black, fussy infotainment controls in front and back.
Bottom Line: The Escalade is the American SUV you drive when you want to be noticed, but it's still in need of refinement and practicality. The big SUV drives well, looks fantastic, and comes rife with features, but so much of the interior is distracting to use.
 View Our 2017 Cadillac Escalade Overview
If ever there was an SUV that embodied the term "baller", it's the Caddy Escalade. There's nothing subtle about it, and you can see it coming from a mile away with its giant silvered maw. The fourth-gen big luxury Caddy SUV is miles ahead of its predecessor in terms of looks and technology. We drove the near-top trim version for a week to see what it was all about. Would there be enough substance to support the bling factor? Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.3

 

We're still a bit shocked by this thing, even after giving the vehicle back to the fleet. It's frighteningly quick, steers pretty well given the size and stays very composed at high speeds. We just wish there was more comfort in the ride.

Ride Quality: We expected a bit more from the Magnetic Ride Control. It errs on the side of firm, which doesn't seem right for a big Caddy. The truck chassis and big 22" wheels don't help.

Acceleration: Seriously strong. You can chirp the tires in 2WD mode without even trying. 0-60 arrives in an alarming 5.8 seconds, and this thing weighs almost three tons.

Braking: Brakes are strong and progressive with good feel, hugely important for something this heavy.

Steering: Steering weight is decent, and feel actually is pretty good for this beast. Inputs are responsive.

Handling: Nothing this big handles well, but the Escalade manages its weight and keeps body roll in check. Just don't enter a turn hot. It's better in a straight line.

Technology

5.8

 

Even though the CUE system has been improved, it's the one lynchpin in the Escalade's technology that drives us nuts. Nothing this large should have a system this distracting to use.

Infotainment System: The touchscreen is vivid and crisp, and it's a pleasure to view.

Controls: The controls for infotainment and climate are terrible. The silver buttons are small and finicky, and some of them don't respond, instead using the piano black panel behind it to manipulate the desired operation. Argh. Knobs and normal buttons, Cadillac. PLEASE.

Bluetooth Pairing: Easy pairing with our smartphones with no hiccups.

Voice Call Quality: Very good voice quality, and the quietness of the cabin helps.

Styling

9.4

 

This is the Escalade's big selling point. The car has serious presence, but it's not even remotely subtle. It's an attention grabber, whether you like it or not. It's way better looking than the rather awkward third-generation version, but some would say it's almost overstyled.

Front: The big silver grille is the first thing you notice, followed by the massive headlights. Everything on the fascia is big and bold, and it works.

Rear: The taillights that extend the full height of the tailgate look fantastic. They're easily the best styling feature on the Escalade.

Profile: Just the right amoutn of chrome on the big profile give it refinement. The square two-box design is nicely done. It's the vehicle's most conservative angle, and we like it.

Cabin: We can't quite get behind Cadillac's interior styling. Though it's unique, there are too many divergent angles and far too much shiny black plastic. At least the build quality is very good.

Comfort

8.2

 

All occupants (in the first two rows) have ample space. We just wish the seats had a little more cushion and contour to them. Overall, it's well-used space that's far better than previous generations.

Front Seats: The seat cushions and seat backs are a bit flat for our liking. The seats also don't recline very far back.

Rear Seats: Our tester had captain's chairs, which were quite good.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Very quiet inside no matter what speed you're at. No vibrations, despite the firm ride.

Visibility: The Escalade has thick pillars all around, but the C and D pillars are the worst. The myriad cameras are vital to manuevering.

Climate: The cooled seats powered up faster than just about anything else we've driven, and the HVAC works really well. Too bad the controls still suck.

Safety

6.7

 

The Escalade in Premium Luxury trim comes with a robust set of safety features, and the vehicle's test scores are good but not the best.

IIHS Rating: Not tested

NHTSA Rating: Four-Star Overall Crash Safety Rating.

Standard Tech: Our Premium Luxury trim came with a serious set of safety features standard, including the Driver Assist Package with Adaptive Cruise Control with full-speed range, Front and Rear Automatic Braking, Automatic, Safety Belt Tightening, Front LED cornering lamps, Illuminated exterior door handles; and the Driver Awareness Package with forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, Safety Alert Seat, Side-Blind Zone Alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert and Intelliibeam automatic high beam, and full-color head-up display

Optional Tech: No Monroney sticker provided.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

Storage in the Escalade is very good. Cadillac thought it out well, and the payoff for gear and cargo storage is ideal. It's one of the Escalade's strong points.

Storage Space: We love the hidden cubby behidn the climate controls, but it's hard to open. The armrest is cavernous, and the front cubby in front of the cupholders is nice and deep.

Cargo Room: 94.2 cubic feet with the last two rows folded flat is impressive. There's a mere 15.2 feet behind the third row, but that's not surprising. If you want more, you have to upgrade to the ESV, which is the size of an aircraft carrier.

Fuel Economy

6.3

 

It's impossible to give this thing high marks in terms of fuel economy, but our expectations were pretty low to begin with. For a vehicle this large, the Escalade is actually decent when it comes to gas mileage.

Observed: 16.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 251 miles

Driving Factors: We drove it rather conservatively on suburban roads and highways. We expect much better numbers on the open road with less stop-and-go traffic.

Audio

8.7

 

Our tester came with the upgraded sound system. The 16-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound was, loud, crisp, and clean, but it still doesn't rank as high as other premium systems we've come across from Bang & Olufsen and Harman Kardon.



Final Thoughts

The Escalade toes the line between practical and impractical. It's a conglomeration of contradictions. It can get wildly expensive, but its gas mileage isn't horrible for something this big. It's spacious inside with real-world storage, but it's aesthetics are for attention hogs. It has amazing safety features, but its infotainment system is dangerously distracting to use. It's as heavy as anti-matter, but it drives pretty damned well. Buyers just have to decide if the admission price is worth it.
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